It rained this last week, alleviating only slightly the California drought. More rain is promised for later this week, more watering our dryness, the ground drinking thirstily and thankfully.
But the sun broke through today, Sunday, bluing the sky and glistening the land, and a hesitant, wondering, breeze nudges the silvery leaves of the olive tree outside my window as I write. The oaks are greening too and the grassy hills are waking up to new life hesitantly here and there. The cherry trees in our neighborhood blossomed their Valentine’s gift of big pink bouquets, giving us far greater hope than any February groundhog.
The incredible beauty and the horrible devastation of nature continues to astound me. Blizzards kill in the East as sun shines in the West. Yet the four seasons repeat regularly, we count on them, and we assume spring will one day replace winter. Just so we yearn that the darkness in our hearts will be enlightened, that hate will turn to love, that judgment will be banished with forgiveness. We yearn for peace, yet we cannot pacify ourselves.
We look to spring and we hope for love, and perhaps this is why we embrace Saint Valentine’s festival in mid-February, a season of reaching for the greater light of Easter, the longer daylight of April. It is thought that Valentine did truly exist, that he suffered martyrdom for his witness to the love of God. But the many legends of the many Valentines woven into present day are not as verifiable. The medieval court of love loved St. Valentine, defining this love as the romantic sort, and it is this Valentine that we recall with hearts and flowers and romantic dinners.
The secular has adopted the sacred, for all people recognize truth, the core and kernel of truth, of who we are. We desire to love; we desire to be loved. Courtly love, with its rituals of honoring and respecting the woman for her womanhood, for her ability to carry and birth life, for her female beauty as dazzlingly different from rough masculinity, tried to tame the bestial nature of mating. Courtly love grew and flourished through the years, fed by Shakespeare and sonnets and the Romantic poets. It has faded in our time and our world, but still we yearn to celebrate the love between a man and a woman, to celebrate something more than the power of lust, to remember true love on St. Valentine’s Day.
It is fitting that such a day in February points to spring, to hope, to love. Such a day reminds us to honor one another, regardless of race, gender, creed, handicap, temperament, age, whether in the womb or near death. Such a day points to Easter, for resurrection day is the ultimate holiday of love, when God the Son, the crucified one, gives us the grace, indeed the ability, to love one another.
This last week I wrote another scene in my novel-in-progress, a story about the coarsening of love in our culture, the jungle encroaching upon the civilized world. Mankind has striven for centuries to civilize the jungle, to tame his own animal within as well as the wilderness without, but we seem to be undoing all that has been done. The working title is The Fire Trail, that boundary between the civil and the uncivil, between safety and danger. It is a love story searching for a way to love in a world of un-love. My recently released novel, The Magdalene Mystery, sought the truth that Mary Magdalene saw in the garden that first Easter morning two thousand years ago. The Fire Trail considers what that vision means to us today.
Today is Septuagesima Sunday, three weeks before the beginning of Lent, the forty days in which we prepare for Easter, April 20, 2014. Today we look into our hearts to root out all un-love. We pray, “Lord, show me every sin, every particle of un-love, that darkens my heart. Show me each time I dishonored or disrespected others, when I coveted, lied, stole, killed, in thought, in word, and in deed. Lighten my dark places, so that I may see, repent, and learn to love.”
Like the breeze nudging the leaves outside my window, my heart is nudged too. With Lent and its lengthening of days, I shall grow towards the light, toward the sun. The dry places shall be watered and my heart shall blossom.